It was cold, raining, and dark, as Pittsburgh mornings often are, when a dude with long blond hair and a red trucker hat approached me on Forbes Avenue and asked me a question. He was the fifth person who had recently asked me about the same thing, so I immediately suspected the universe was up to something.
As a professional risk manager, I’m used to peeking around corners, sensing potential impacts. In this case, I’m sensing a need for some basic disaster-prevention tips coming from someone with a qualified opinion.
Either that or the universe is just messing with me, which is also entirely possible. So, here goes.
Dear Red Trucker Hat Dude, et al.:
How to Personally Prepare for a Pandemic (or Any Emergency, Really)
Live below your means, saving as much money as possible with each paycheck you get. Having multiple income streams is also advisable, if at all possible. Examples of additional income streams include YouTube videos, book sales, dollar-store eBay flipping, getting a second or third job in the gig economy such as Uber/Lyft, Fiverr, TaskRabbit, etc.
Understanding personal finance is a key educational goal, and you usually have to look outside of the U.S. educational system to do so. I always recommend either Dave Ramsey or Ramit Sethi for this purpose, and there are certainly others out there who are helpful.
The Dave Ramsey method (“Envelope System”) is great for stretching a dollar, especially if you’ve been previously uneducated about the psychology of money. He posts clips of his radio show on YouTube, and has a free podcast. (Hint: he’s slightly against using credit cards.)
Ramit’s no-nonsense style makes for entertaining reading while he’s teaching you. He has free videos on YouTube and blog posts on his website at https://www.iwillteahcyoutoberich.com/blog
BENEFITS: Having a cushion in the bank helps to get you past any unexpected interruptions to your cash flow. While interest rates are currently terrible, even 1% is better than nothing. At a bare minimum, you should have a $1,000 emergency fund at all times.
RESOURCES: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi.
2) EXERCISE/PHYSICAL FITNESS.
Exercise daily, aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Long walks are free, non-taxing, and very beneficial. There are innumerable free resources for you to research the exercise mode of your choice.
BENEFITS: By maintaining a healthy body weight, you greatly improve your immune system, and therefore your chances of fighting off any nasty viruses. Examples of nasty viruses that have killed people lately include Coronavirus, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, the flu.
RESOURCES: The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, Jeff Nippard YouTube channel.
3) STOCKPILES OF ESSENTIAL GOODS.
This is also known as “prepping,” but it’s just logical to stock up on certain items in case something happens and the supply chain is interrupted. It should be noted that the term “prepper” is frequently used with a negative connotation in the American media for some reason, so your neighbors may look at you weird when you start stockpiling. Ignore them.
Buy long-term storable foods. Ramen is cheap and lasts forever, for example. Kits with MRE-type meals are also not super-expensive. Rice is cheap. Canned goods are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. Additional things to stockpile or make sure you have enough of:
BENEFITS: By having supplies stocked up, you don’t have to participate in the inevitable mad dash to the grocery store when the media oversaturates the airwaves with dire warnings. This enables you to avoid a fistfight over the last turnip. [h/t Tarl Warlick.] Also brings peace of mind.
RESOURCES: https://ready.gov , Prepping for Beginners
Eat as healthy a diet as possible. Lots of veggies, not so many carbs. Lots of water, not so much soda. Very little junk food.
As hard as it is, try to quit smoking cigarettes if you smoke. (I and my mom both did. She started smoking when she was ten. I’ll say it louder for the people in the back: my mom started smoking cigarettes when she was ten years old, then quit fifty years later.)
If you must drink alcohol, red wine is the best of all choices. Whatever your choice of alcohol may be, drink lots of water in between and use something like DrinkWel to reduce the negative effects on your immune system.
Supplement daily with something like Athletic Greens, which is nutritional insurance. Other good supplements include Vitamin D3, fish oil, and turmeric.
Don’t do illegal drugs, obvz.
BENEFITS: Similar to exercise, this one is key for a healthy immune system and overall life enjoyment. The better you eat, the healthier you’ll be, and the better your odds in a fight vs. one of the nasties.
RESOURCES: DrinkWel, Athletic Greens, Vitamin D3, fish oil, turmeric, The 4-Hour Body by Ferriss.
Get at least 7 hours and enough as you need every night. Use magnesium and/or zinc to supplement if you have significant issues, including a “runaway mind,” which is quite common.
BENEFITS: See above re: nutrition and exercise.
RESOURCES: Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, magnesium, zinc.
6) SOCIAL LIFE.
As much as possible, try to maintain an active, healthy social life with supportive, positive friends and family. (As an introvert, I struggle with this one. I try to compensate via technology by using texts, Facebook groups, etc. Not ideal, though. Humans are built for interpersonal connections.) Meetup.com works well for some people. I haven’t had much luck with it myself.
BENEFITS: Human interaction benefits the mind in many ways, especially due to oxytocin, which is a “person-to-person bonding” chemical reaction in the brain. (Layman’s terms.) For introverts, try to cultivate at least a few close friendships. Even one is better than none.
RESOURCES: http://www.meetup.com, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
7) SPIRITUAL LIFE/MINDFULESS.
However you want to worship, getting right with that side of your life is important.
Either in addition to organized religion or to fill the gap for the areligious, meditation and breathing exercises can be greatly beneficial. I have found Calm, Waking Up, and Headspace as useful free apps.
BENEFITS: When things break down and life ebbs, having a sound spiritual foundation can provide the necessary comfort during those tough times. Without it, chances of experiencing things like loneliness and depression increase. A meditation practice, while not exactly spiritual, still provides a calmness of mind that is of practical day-to-day benefit. Some famous meditators include David Lynch, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Harris, Tim Ferriss, J.D. Salinger, Will Smith, Bill Gates, Jennifer Lopez, Phil Jackson, Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar, Sheryl Crow, Clint Eastwood, Jessica Alba, Rick Rubin, Ray Dalio, Joe Rogan, Heather Graham, Russell Brand, Howard Stern, and Kobe Bryant.
RESOURCES: Calm, Waking Up, Headspace, Calm YouTube channel.
That’s it! Simple as a dimple, right? You’re now totally prepared for any catastrophe that comes your way. Except if the universe decides to fry you with a lightning bolt, that’s the kind of bummer that not even a professional risk manager can prepare for.
But did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!
Note: I realize that this may seem basic for some people, especially experienced “preppers,” but maybe having all the links in one place might prove to be of value.